Hey y’all:) Was smiling reading everyone’s above comments, especially @chava, @Esquilax, and @ETC as they’ve been adding fascinating tangents and differing (but similar maybe?) perspectives. And cheers to @crat’s recent joining. Now, this may be a bit of back-patting, but having just read the thread’s development since last posting with an unfinished rambling of ideas, it’s funny how much I’ve had different posts from different points jumping into my writing and reading…I’m afraid @pilhead made reading at least Jeremy Gilbert and Ewan Pearson–yet, that Ewan Pearson–another late read (or re-read with Energy Flash to whom I owe this friend’s total sweetness in sending over a copy from London.
Anyhoo, I’ve been laughing in my head a lot at the discussion surrounding my earlier, flippant comments about Marxism as I’ve been reading a book (one I believe I mentioned earlier in this thread) that is a Hegelian philosophy of art about the avant-garde that I have found _beyond riveting:
As I’ve been hella busy trying not to get evicted and work on all my non-paying projects, I figured I might as well share a portion of text I wrote summarizing much of the book’s over-arching ideas as not only do I find it utterly incisive, its focus on the ‘art world’ is an almost token one as almost everything he’s written I’ve found very helpful in articulating and developing some of my thinking on this current historical moment and music’s role within it (as well as a perhaps romantic fixation with the avant-garde…for as Buttechno so elegantly put it (though I failed to post the following quote at length from this interview), as I’ve been writing down a lot of very long quotes/excerpts lately, the fact I can just copy and paste this is too wonderful to pass up;)
First of all, I’m inspired by crazy musicians, in the best sense of the word. Musicians who can remain open to things beyond the established conventions. I suppose you could call it “avant-garde.” Terrence Dixon is a prime example, especially for music where your selection of instruments is limited: you could have one drum machine or one synthesizer, for example, and that’s it. And he managed to create things which would be impossible to reproduce even with a large number of acoustic instruments. Music like that blows you away, and you understand how it’s possible to work with any tools.
For me, it’s important for music to contain some kind of intention that is difficult to describe in words. It’s just that sometimes something resonates inside you and you think: that’s the shit. And it has nothing to do with a specific genre or form – in techno there are limited patterns, just as there are limited dub riddims [the Jamaican Patois pronunciation of “rhythms” – Ed.]. But among the many tracks that are the same speed or use the same instruments, some find an inner reverberation and others don’t. In one of his interviews, Mika Vainio, of the Finnish minimal electronic duo Pan Sonic, said: “There’s a lot of techno stuff that somehow, mysteriously, doesn’t catch the groove.” It really is a mystery how there can be good and bad music which, at first glance, has been made according to the same rules.
And with that, this…
In his book Revolutionary Time and the Avant-Garde, John Roberts offers up an incisive materialist analysis of the avant-garde today. Noting how we must adjust our judgments of past avant-garde movements, he makes the first of several crucial assessments of what the avant-garde has become in the post-World War II period, citing the need “to recognize that these delimiting conditions themselves are not fixed. If in the the 1950s and early 1960s the historical avant-garde seemed largely utopian, and I the late 1960s and early 1970s a pressing if short-lived revolutionary demand in the wake of May 1968, today it seems like the grammar of a viable and active art production….When the social constraints on art are pushing art’s field of operation and critical claims further and further from the day-to-day relations of the official art world, then the official art world begins, quite obviously to look less like the place art can be made and talked about.”
From here he moves on to his adroit critique of what he calls the second economy and the avant-garde’s relation to it. Catching us up to the present day, he writes:
This is why we need to talk in general terms about the extraordinary revitalization and revivification of many of the premises of the avant-garde in post-object art, participatory art, pedagogic art, and relational and post-relational practice since the mid-1990s, emboldened as this work is in two significant and interrelated changes in the global political economy of art: the exponential rise of the artists’ ground or collective as ‘research units and the massive growth of arts’ ‘second economy.’ The second economy is that sphere of artistic and cultural activity that has little or no relationship to the primary economies of art: salesrooms, auction houses, museums, and large public galleries. But—and here is the significance of its emergence and expansion - it is where the majority of artists now labour and produce their ideas and cultivate their models, templates and networks.
While he might be talking about the visual art world, one can posit a similar change and shifting of distribution models that has both reified the mainstream in an increasingly decentralized market and allowed pockets of innovation where the focus is, arguably, largely on the music and not the hype, the backstory, the press release-cribbed reviews. Though his focus might be on the auction houses and prestige galleries that were once the primary vehicle by which the avant-garde was disseminated in art but also music, his focus on the dematerialization of the art object works for music’s adoption of streaming as the primary means of music discovery while secondary markets in the form of Discogs have emerged to facilitate the selling and re-selling of ‘specialist’ music products, often produced in limited runs of 500 or 1000 copies that change hands over the decades with the ebbing and flow of different musical trends.
-note the CCRU and Kode9’s involvement (fuck it, why be precious about this shit, eh? I’m in a forum, after all, hehe)
Moving beyond the amateur culture that has been the primary engine behind celebrity and status of the full-time artists, he writes:
This is because the second economy is the space where not only marginalized and self-marginalizing full-time professional artists work, but also part-time professionals, occasional artists, who in their combined and shared activities represent an extraordinary artistic contribution to the ‘collective intellect’ and to the pronounced shift overall to the emerging gift economy. The second economy, therefore, is weak in terms of its command over exchange-values, but is vigorous and inventive of its production of use-values (that may or may not produce exchange-value in the future).
Marxist economic speak aside, what Roberts is identifying is the fact that in the US census in 2005, “two million people wrote on their form that they primary job was as an artist, and three hundred thousand declared that it was their secondary of part-time job…But of course very few artists, about 1-2 per cent, actually make a living from selling their work.”
The reason we’re taking the time to make our ways through these dense historical-theoretical texts is due to the fact that a post-Web 2.0 critical framework—what was idealistically referred to as the ‘democratization’ of the internet back in Silicon Valley retreats in 2007—is needed to move beyond the nuum to a space in which we can start to make sense of this tradition that was once manifested through a material-cultural infrastructure has gone virtual and with it much of the organizing hierarchies and relational models through which electronic music’s myriad scenes can be made more understandable and allow us to craft a language to capture the new nuance at work in ‘underground’ electronic music.
I should also mention that I’m reading much of this through, for lack of a better term, a “DIY” frame of reference based off of my own experience is shared.
Apologies for the typos and the abrupt end…groaning at how many other crucial ideas I at least want to write down and then hopefully distill to something more succinct. Now getting go on your weekend release, right? Cuz I’m sure not working…
Oh! And please enjoy (or don’t!) this song from Ploy off that Patina Echoes Timedance comp that is baaaaallller (but also, hella nuanced)…talking to him this week, that was an interesting cul de sac we hit…“well, [nuance’ is what it’s all about these days, innit?”